P.S. Knight Co. Ltd., et al. v. Canadian Standards Association

(Federal) (Civil) (By Leave)


Intellectual property law — Copyright — Infringement — Crown law — Prerogatives —Legislation — Interpretation — Can copyright subsist in the laws of Canada? — If copyright can subsist in the laws of Canada, can that copyright be privately owned? — If copyright can subsist in the laws of Canada, is that copyright owned by the Crown? — Once a privately copyrighted document is incorporated by reference into the laws of Canada, is that copyright extinguished and/or transferred to the Crown?


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Canadian Standards Association (“CSA”) is a federal not for profit corporation engaged in developing, testing, and certifying voluntary electrical standards. One of the most important standards is the CSA Electrical Code, which sets out safety standards for installation and maintenance of electrical equipment in Canada. The CSA Electrical Code has been incorporated by reference into several regulations and statutes for the installation and maintenance of electrical equipment. Copyright in the 2015 CSA Electrical Code was registered in April of 2015 in favour of the CSA. P.S. Knight Co. is a commercial competitor of the CSA. It has published the Electrical Code Simplified since the 1960s, including references with attribution to the CSA Electrical Code. A strong working relationship between the two groups began to deteriorate after a 2004 offer from the CSA to purchase Knight Co was rejected. In 2010 the CSA wrote to Knight Co. to inform it that any licence that may have existed was terminated. In 2016, Knight Co. reproduced and threatened to distribute a complete and identical copy of the 2015 version of the CSA Electrical Code at one-third the price the CSA charged. As a result, the CSA initiated an application to the Federal Court for copyright infringement. The Federal Court determined that copyright subsists in the 2015 Electrical Code and was owned by CSA. It concluded that Knight Co. infringed CSA’s copyright. A majority of the Federal Court of Appeal agreed with the Federal Court judge with a dissenting opinion on Crown prerogative.

Lower Court Rulings

March 29, 2016
Federal Court

T-646-15, 2016 FC 294
Copyright infringement found against Knight Co.
December 7, 2018
Federal Court of Appeal

2018 FCA 222, A-90-16, A-121-16
Appeal dismissed. Webb J.A. dissenting on application of Crown prerogative.